royal lamb korma

This lamb korma epitomises all that is special about Mughal cuisine. Aromatic spices, creamy, dried fruit, nuts and the main ingredient highlighted to perfection.

This recipe requires an overnight marination period, so start it the day before.

The recipe is from the kitchens of the Bahadur Shah, literally the “great man shah”, dating back to the early 18th Century, CE. Hence its name Korma Bahadur Shahi, or Shahi Korma.

As befits a dish from the kitchens of a king, it has no ingredients used by the common people, such as turmeric or tomato. It uses a lot of saffron and cardamom, which were then and still are amongst the most expensive spices in the world.

Also consistent with its royal kitchen heritage is its intricate presentation. Yes, you could leave stuff out and use substitutes, but I would recommend that if you want to cook something that is fit for a king, then go to the bother of doing this as written. I do, but certainly not every week. This is a special occasion dish.

The real key to this recipe is use the best possible lamb you can get. The recipe will feature and showcase the lamb, so it needs to be good. It is not slow-cooked so don’t expect fatty lamb to render down. Fatty lamb will taste like, well, fatty lamb. I will often use lamb fillets or backstraps and reduce the cooking time appropriately.

You will notice a large amount of dairy product in this, which is intentional. But it is not meant to be a creamy, saucy dish. The presentation shown in the photo is what you want to achieve. Some sauce, but not ending up as bits of lamb floating in cream.

In royal banquets this would be just one of many dishes. For a contemporary situation, you use this a feature dish with simple accompaniments. Plain rice or bread would be best. Do not serve this with raita, because there will be too much yoghurt. A simple kachumber or salad would best.

the recipe

preparation:30 mins
cook:2 hrs
marinate:12 hrs
total:14 hrs 30 mins
servings:4 servings
calories:628 kcal


  • 800 g lamb legas lean as possible, cut into 2.5cm pieces

for the marinade

to cook

to serve


for the marinade

  • Whisk the yogurt, Kashmiri chilli powder and garlic in a large bowl. Add the lamb pieces, toss, cover and refrigerate overnight.

to prepare

  • Warm the milk, add the saffron and set aside.
  • Place the raisins in a cup of hot water and set aside.
  • Mix the ginger, coriander, cardamom, cumin, mace and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add a little water to make a spice paste.
  • Heat the ghee in a large pot over medium-low heat and fry 12 cashews until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

to cook

  • Add the onion to the pot, sprinkle with the salt and fry for ten minutes or until golden brown. Stir in the spice paste with 125ml water. Reduce heat to low and cook until the ghee begins to separate.
  • Add the lamb with its marinade and the figs. Cook for 10 minutes or until the yoghurt sauce begins to thicken. Increase the heat and fry the mixture to take on some colour. If necessary, loosen the sauce with a little more water.
  • Reduce the heat, and simmer for about an hour and a half, uncovered, until the lamb is tender, Add as little water as possible during this time to stop the sauce from burning during the cooking. It will need water – you may end up adding around two cups of water during this time.
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the lamb from the pot and place into a serving dish. Keep in a warm place.
  • Add the raw cashews to the sauce and using a hand blender or food processor blend the sauce. Increase heat to high and cook for 10 minutes, stirring continuously, until the sauce reduces and becomes thick.
  • Reduce heat to low, add the crème fraiche, mix and bring back to a low simmer. Do not allow the sauce to boil or it will split.

to serve

  • Drain the raisins and add them with the almonds, pistachios to the sauce. Add the saffron-infused milk to the sauce. Mix well.
  • Pour the sauce over the lamb and toss to coat. Garnish with coriander and the reserved cashews. Serve.
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